Organic Climbing, a backpack and rock climbing pad manufacturer, moved its facility to Philipsburg in 2010. Eight years later, when it was time to expand, owner and operator Josh Helke knew where he wanted his company to be located.
They’re still in Philispburg, after building in the Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership’s Regional Business Park.
“It’s kind of the best of both worlds, we can have this space for manufacturing (in Philipsburg) just because it’s such an affluent area with the university,” Helke said. “It’s actually hard to have the space that we need now, and up there, there’s a lot more space and the price is a lot better.”
Located at 200 Shady Lane — one mile east of Philipsburg via Route 322 and only 22 miles from Penn State and State College — the Moshannon Valley Regional Business Park is a 14-lot complex with businesses such as offices, manufacturers and restaurants.
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The complex contains 5 lots of between 1.3 and 5 miles of buildable space for lease, as all others have been either leased already or sold entirely.
A big appeal to potential businesses looking to lease is that the complex is a Keystone Opportunity Zone Area, meaning that businesses in the complex are exempt from certain state and local taxes, according to Stan LaFuria, executive director of the MVEDP.
Other businesses in the park include Diamondback Automotive Accessories, Advanced Powder Products, as well as MVEDP’s own Moshannon Valley Regional Business Center.
LaFuria said that in the 27 years he has been working in the area, the Moshannon Valley area is seeing the best economic growth he’s ever seen in just the past few years. He chalks it up to people wanting to save money, find their ideal space situation for their business as well as for numerous other reasons.
The big difference between the market in rural areas and those in urban areas, according to LaFuria, is price — prices for building space, leases and real estate are, in most cases, considerably less outside of cities in rural areas like Philipsburg.
While businesses may flock to State College for the “Penn State market,” LaFuria says, they might find that the price is just too high.
“It’s just dollars and cents, where the price of building space, (to) lease, and the price of real estate, is so much less expensive here,” LaFuria said.
The MVEDP has prosperous relationships with many other small businesses partnerships throughout the region, including the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. If a potential startup business can’t find a location they’re looking for in an urban area, the specific partnership sends them in the rural direction, and likewise.
“What we have is old manufacturing space and larger quantities of space,” LaFuria said. “Some need that larger square footage, and we have that here.”
When Organic Climbing moved into the business park, Helke said they had only have five employees, which has since grown to 21 employees.
“I would say there are no disadvantages, the price really makes competing in manufacturing in the U.S. easier,” Helke said. “When you get up there, it’s beautiful, it’s real.”
Helke said the company plans to continue expansion further into Centre County with a new rock climbing gym set to open in late 2019 in the Boalsburg Technology Park. The gym will also sell Organic Climbing’s products.
“I think a lot of people in the area are hungry for something truly local, and I think there’s something cool about being able to buy a backpack that was made local,” Helke said. “We really hope to be able to bring that to State College.”
A majority of Organic Climbing’s employees reside in the Moshannon Valley, Helke said, with a handful coming from State College.
According to LaFuria, the economic growth of the area is visible in the number of people coming in to the Moshannon Valley to work. Statistics show that about 2,700 people leave the area every morning to commute to their jobs and about 2,600 are coming into the valley to work.
“That would have never been the case 25 years ago,” LaFuria said. “It’s so much different and better now with the economy.”